At the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in New Orleans, it’s clear Dr. Smith's work makes a big difference in the lives of her patients and clients.
“We’re able to help a large portion of the New Orleans community that may not have access to private clinics in the area, whether it’s being able to get to those clinics, or being financially able to afford that care,” Dr. Smith explained. “It’s great being able to provide services to people who have less access to quality care for their pets.”
Through the SPCA Community Clinic, Dr. Smith and her team provide vaccines, wellness appointments, spay/neuter, heartworm treatments, community education, and more. She’s exactly where she’d always imagined herself—helping those in need.
Leaving the ‘Numbers Game’
A New Orleans native, Dr. Smith has always wanted to be a vet. (“There was a brief period in college when I toyed with a liberal arts/business major—but the second I got that curriculum from the business school, I went right back on track to the sciences,” she laughs.)
She graduated from Tulane University with a degree in cellular and molecular biology in 2004—right before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and devastated the region.
Dr. Smith took some time off as she and her community dealt with the aftermath of the hurricane. Then, she jumped into applying for vet school full-force… and then reapplying for vet school. Three years passed as Dr. Smith continued vying for a seat in state veterinary schools with no luck.
That was when a veterinarian she worked with remarked, ‘You know, if you had applied to Ross, you could’ve already graduated at this point.”
That was a sobering thought—and a turning point—for Dr. Smith. She had never heard of Caribbean veterinary schools before, but was ready to try a different path from the reapply-and-wait cycle. “I thought about all the time that was wasted playing the numbers game with state vet schools,” she said. “You’re one of several thousand applicants for a limited number of seats. You apply in the fall, you don’t find out until May, and you’re basically stuck in limbo.”
By contrast, she said applying to RUSVM was a “completely different and refreshing” experience. After completing the online application, she received follow-up phone calls and emails. She interviewed in Dallas. Within a month, she was accepted, and booked a flight to St. Kitts with her husband.
Experiencing St. Kitts
Dr. Smith’s favorite part about RUSVM? “The friendships you make are phenomenal,” she said. “You become so close with everyone—not only with students but faculty too. You meet people from all over the world and bond with them. Honestly, it was harder for me to leave St. Kitts after two-and-a-half years than it was to go there in the first place.”
But although she had left St. Kitts, it became clear that the experience would stay with her—and show up when she needed it most.
Her clinical year, for example, which she completed at Louisiana State University, found her calm and unruffled in the face of unexpected problems or crisis situations. She credits Ross with instilling her with that sense of adaptability. “If the day was a little chaotic, something broke in surgery, the power went out, or any type of crisis or emergency—I found that I didn’t panic. I was able to focus and go with the flow, because I’d already handled pretty much everything on campus,” said Dr. Smith. “Coming out of Ross, you really are extremely prepared and ready to go, both professionally and personally. It allows you to grow as a person.”
Both Dr. Smith and her husband agree—they’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
“My husband wasn’t even a student at Ross, but he’s said many times how glad he is that we went to St. Kitts,” said Dr. Smith. “It goes to show you how amazing the experience is, from both a student and non-student perspective.”
Her advice for pre-vet students: “If it’s your dream, keep pursuing it,” said Dr. Smith. “Don’t let somebody else dictate whether you can do it or not. Find a different route to go and it might be even better for you in the long run.”